Anarchists, It is Our Duty to Vote in Elections 1

I can’t say I agree with this, but I’m always amazed at the diversity of anarchist thought.

By Paddy Vipond

Trouble and Squeak

As election fever reaches its sweaty, unbearable heights in both the UK with the coming General Election, and in the US as Hilary Clinton officially announces her campaign to run for Presidency, we are faced with the age old anarchist dilemma: To vote or not to vote.

I do not expect this article to answer this question once and for all, but I do expect it to change a few people’s perceptions on the issue. As anarchists it is our duty to question everything, even our own decisions, and as with any set of political beliefs if they remain unchallenged they become dogma.

As I grew up and discovered the principles and key thinkers of anarchism I slowly began to turn my back on mainstream politics and their parties. Once I had read what I had, the seed had been planted, and it was a seed that did not need chemical fertiliser in the form of propaganda in order to develop. It grew naturally because what I had read and discovered made sense. I did not need to be coerced and persuaded, or attacked and threatened. Quite simply, anarchy was logical.

Within this logic, time and again I encountered one moot point. It was a point that every anarchist had written about, and it was a point that was at odds with the logic inherent in anarchism. What frustrated me about it was that rather than question it, as we are told to do with every other belief and system, we must instead accept it. An anarchist has no place voting in an election.

Great writers and thinkers of the past have argued it, posters plastered on the walls of buildings around Brighton were stating it, and fellow anarchists online were writing about it. Anarchists should not vote, and they should be proud of not doing so.

As you may have guessed by the title of this article, I disagree. It has taken me a few years to reach this decision, but now that I am here I am wondering why I ever opposed the idea. Voting in elections is not only a duty of anarchists, it is the single easiest weapon at our disposal.

Before I continue discussing why voting is beneficial for anarchists, let’s challenge the arguments as to why we should oppose it.

Democracy: Self-Government or Systemic Powerlessness? 1

By Derek Wittorf

Center for a Stateless Society

This piece is the third essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.”

Democracy: the universal war cry of justice. We’re told by the left — both moderate and radical — that all socio-political problems almost always arise from a pure lack of democracy. We’re told all social manifestations of authority, inequality, and hierarchy require democracy as a political solution. If there happens to be some kind of democracy in a society, and there remains the problem of hierarchy, the problem is always attributed to there not being direct democracy, or that there isn’t free association between individuals and collectives. Either representatives of an indirect democracy are corrupting the very function of the system, and acting in their own personal interests (which is generally how republican systems devolve into a plutocracy), or the freedom of others to leave the collective if they don’t like it, ironically the “like it or leave it” motto usually held by conservatives when addressing political dissidents and immigrants, isn’t being upheld and enforced.

Most libertarian socialists tend to believe that freedom of association, or decentralism, is a cornerstone of a well-functioning democracy. They believe that individuals must first consent to the democratic decision-making of the collective by association, and that the potential choice to disassociate rules out the imposition of such majoritarian decision-making on the minority. At first glance, this appears to be fairly reasonable and consistent with libertarian socialist criticisms of the State. However, what is grossly overlooked are the internal dynamics of democracy and fundamental inquiry as to whether democratic organizing principles per se are libertarian and egalitarian in nature. Does freedom of association institutionally prevent the majority forcibly expropriating the power of the minority? Is democracy technically anarchist?

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Forget far-right populism – crypto-anarchists are the new masters Reply

By Jamie Bartlett

The Guardian

hose who mistakenly thought 2016 was an anomaly, a series of unprecedented events, should have few remaining doubts. Marine Le Pen may have stuttered but still picked up almost 11 million votes. Her opponent, the “normal” candidate, was leader of a party only one year old. The ongoing terror attacks, fake news panic, Trump’s tweets and James Comey: last year never really ended, it just carried straight on into this one.

After decades of exaggerated prediction, the internet is finally transforming politics, but not in the way the digital prophets expected. The 90s, you may recall, were awash with optimism about our online future: limitless information and total connection would make us more informed, less bigoted and kinder citizens. But the internet is an overwhelming mess of competing facts, claims, blogs, data, propaganda, misinformation, investigative journalism, charts, different charts, commentary and reportage. It’s not the slow and careful politicians who have thrived in this busy environment, it’s the people with the shareable cut-through messages. Donald Trump might very well be the first truly social-media politician: his emotion-filled, simplistic blasts are perfect for the medium.

As a result, society is currently gripped by a curious consensus: that the internet has conspired with rightwing populists to sew up the future of politics. Noting the emergence of populist strongmen and demagogues, who seem to be digital wizards like recovering Twitter addict Trump, and violent opponents who seem only to bolster their support, many are comparing – with a certain grim fascination – our current turbulence with the 1930s. That is a very short-term view of things. The supremacy of the populist right is not the inevitable future. The rise of the right is better seen as an early skirmish in a much longer, and far more significant, technology-led restructuring of our politics and society. Digital technology has helped the populist right for now, but it will soon swallow them up, along with many other political movements unable or unwilling to see how the world is changing.

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Zbigniew Brzezinski As I Knew Him Reply

By Paul Craig Roberts

Strategic Culture Foundation

Brzezinski’s death at 89 years of age has generated a load of propaganda and disinformation, all of which serves one interest group or another or the myths that people find satisfying. I am not an expert on Brzezinski, and this is not an apology for him. He was a Cold Warrior, as essentially was everyone in Washington during the Soviet era.

For 12 years Brzezinski was my colleague at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I occupied the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy. When I was elected to that chair, CSIS was a part of Georgetown University. However, the president of Georgetown University was one of those liberals who hated Henry Kissinger, who was also our colleague, and the university president also hated Ronald Reagan for his rhetoric, not for his deeds about which the Georgetown president was uninformed. So I also was unwelcome. Whatever I was worth to CSIS, Kissinger was worth more, and CSIS was not going to give up Henry Kissinger.

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Democracy, Anarchism, & Freedom Reply

By Wayne Price

Center for a Stateless Society

This piece is the second essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.”

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”
—Abraham Lincoln

“Democracy” and “anarchism” are broad, vague, and hotly contested terms. Even if we stick to specific definitions, there are still arguments about what these definitions mean in practice. (Lincoln’s quotation, above, seems to be about the preconditions for democracy.) This is not just a linguistic dispute. The argument is not just over “democracy” but over democracy, not just over “anarchism” but over anarchism. Still more controversial is the relationship between these two broad terms.

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The Abolition Of Rulership Or The Rule Of All Over All Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

This piece is the opening essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.”

Fighting over the definitions of words can sometimes seem like a futile and irrelevant undertaking. However it’s important to note that whatever language gets standardized in our communities shapes what we can talk and think about. So much of radical politics often boils down to acrimonious dictionary-pounding over words like “capitalism,” “markets,” “socialism,” “communism,” “nihilism,” etc. Each side is usually engaged in bravado rather than substance. Radical debates turn into preemptive declarations of “everyone knows X” or “surely Y,” backed by nothing more than the social pressure we can bring to bear against one another. And yet — to some degree — we’re trapped in this game because acquiescing to the supposed authority of our adversaries’ definitions would put us at an unspeakable disadvantage. The stakes of debates over “mere semantics” can be quite high, determining what’s easy to describe and what’s awkward or laborious.

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Anarchy and Democracy Reply

By Cory Massimino

Center for a Stateless Society

Mutual Exchange is the Center for a Stateless Society’s effort to achieve mutual understanding through dialogue. Following one of the most divisive Presidential elections in recent American history and a dangerous victor’s contested ascension to power, the political climate is one of intense ideological strife and disagreement. There is no better time to refocus at least some of our efforts on respectful and mutually beneficial discourse. Periodically delving into the weeds of complex theoretical topics to collaboratively experiment with ideas is not only necessary for individual and collective intellectual progress, but is part and parcel of anarchist praxis itself.

“Fighting over the definitions of words can sometimes seem like a futile and irrelevant undertaking. However, it’s important to note that whatever language gets standardized in our communities shapes what we can talk and think about,” says William Gillis in his lead essay of our June symposium. Indeed, rather than pointless “infighting” and social posturing, the Center for a Stateless Society hopes to create a platform for free expression that benefits authors and readers alike by productively clarifying our values and principles.

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Beyond Nationalism and Territorialism Reply

By Pierre Joseph Proudhon

(1851)


Note

These passages are taken from Idée générale de la révolution au XIXème siècle.

Proudhon seems anticipating some aspects proper of what is now called ‘globalization’ when he refers to an economic revolution that will be universal in getting rid of state-made borders and state-manufactured pretensions to control a specific territory.

Clearly that revolution did not take place in the XIX century and the results, forecasted by Proudhon, have been wars of unprecedented magnitude because state powers are “born … to war, educated to war, supported by war.” It is now time to implement the ideas advocated by Proudhon and to go beyond nationalism and territorialism, doing away with political centralization, or, in other words, with the territorial state.


Nationality, aroused by the state, opposes an invincible resistance to economic unity: this explains why monarchy was never able to become universal. Universal monarchy is, in politics, what squaring the circle or perpetual motion are in mathematics, a contradiction. A nation can put up with a government as long as its economic forces are unorganized, and as long as the government is its own, the nationalism of the power causing an illusion as to the validity of the principle; the government maintains itself through an interminable succession of monarchies, aristocracies and democracies. But if the power is external, the nation feels it as an insult: revolt is in every heart, it cannot last.What no monarchy, not even that of the Roman emperors has been able to accomplish; what Christianity, that epitome of the ancient faiths has been unable to produce, the universal Republic, the economic Revolution will accomplish, cannot fail to accomplish.

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Reflections on Decentralism Reply

By George Woodcock

Note

Originally published in Anarchy, October 1969

 


 

I was asked to write on decentralism in history, and I find myself looking into shadows where small lights shine as fireflies do, endure a little, vanish, and then reappear like Auden’s messages of the just. The history of decentralism has to be written largely in negative, in winters and twilights as well as springs and dawns, for it is a history which, like that of libertarian beliefs in general, is not observed in progressive terms. It is not the history of a movement, an evolution. It is the history of something that, like grass, has been with us from the human beginning, something that may go to earth, like bulbs in winter, and yet be there always, in the dark soil of human society, to break forth in unexpected places and at undisciplined times.

Palaeolithic man, food-gatherer and hunter, was a decentralist by necessity, because the earth did not provide enough wild food to allow crowding, and in modern remotenesses that were too wild or unproductive for civilized men to penetrate, men still lived until very recently in primitive decentralism: Australian aborigines, Papuan inland villagers, Eskimos in northern Canada. Such men developed, before history touched them, their own complex techniques and cultures to defend a primitive and precarious way of life; they often developed remarkable artistic traditions as well, such as those of the Indians of the Pacific rain forests and some groups of Eskimos. But, since their world was one where concentration meant scarcity and death, they did not develop a political life that allowed the formation of authoritarian structures nor did they make an institution out of war. They practised mutual aid for survival, but this did not make them angels; they practised infanticide and the abandonment of elders for the same reason.

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Is America Racist? Reply

Is America racist? Is it — as President Barack Obama said — “part of our DNA”? Author and talk-show host Larry Elder examines America’s legacy of racism, whether it’s one we can ever escape, and in the process offers a different way of looking at things like Ferguson, crime, police and racial profiling.